Carlsen shines online
LET’S PLAY CHESS - Edgar De Castro (The Philippine Star) - August 23, 2020 - 12:00am

Magnus Carlsen recovered well to beat Hikaru Nakamura, 4.0:3.0, and win the $300,000 Online Grand Chess Tour Finals.

Carlsen, 29, the reigning Norwegian world champion, delighted thousands of online crowd as he rallied from a set down, securing a draw with the Black pieces in the deciding Armageddon tie-break playoff to clinch the title and the $140,000 top prize.

American blitz champion Nakamura, who was leading most of the match, and needing only a draw in Game 6 of the final set to win the tournament, played sloppily and failed to keep a Carlsen comeback far at bay.

Nakamura’s stunning run in major online chess ends with Thursday’s heartbreaking loss. He earned $80,000.

* * *

Meanwhile, top-seeded Russia took a giant step towards booking a final berth by posting three consecutive victories as the FIDE Online Chess Olympiad preliminary phase got underway.

Spearheaded by world No. 4 Ian Nepomniacthchi, team Russia amassed six match points after three rounds, to take the solo lead in Pool C. Croatia, Bulgaria, Armenia and Egypt were tied for 2nd-4th with 4.0 apiece.

In other matches, No. 3 seed USA eased past Italy, 5.0-1.0, behind victories registered by Wesley So and Sham Shankland. The Americans led Pool D with 6.0 match points and moved closer to ensure an early passage to the championship phase.

India, China and Germany were tied at 6.0 apiece in Pool A while Azerbaijan and Ukraine led Pool B with six points each.

The top three teams in each pool will advance into the final phase. All matches can be watched live daily  in various chess websites.

* * *

Grand Chess Tour Finals 2020

W) M. Carlsen (Norway)

B) H. Nakamuyra (USA)

Giuoco Piano

1. e4 e5; 2. Nf3 Nc6; 3. Bc4 Bc5; 4. O-O ....

4. c3 is the usual continuation, leading to varying chances for both sides. The text is the latest preference in grand master play.

4....   Nf6; 5. d3  d6; 6. c3  h6; 7. Re1 O-O; 8. Nbd2  a5; 9. Nf1  Be6; 10. Bb5 Ne7

11. d4 exd4; 12. cxd4 Bb6; 13. Ng3 d5; 14. e5 Ne4; 15. Bd3 Nxg3; 16. hxg3 a4

Carlsen vs. Nakamura, set five went 16....Bg4 17. Bc2 c5 18. Be3 cxd4 19. Bxd4 Rc8 20. Rc1 Rc4, and Black has equalized. (1/2, 44).

17. Bc2 a3

Not without a point, but 17....Qe8 is accurate, according to the engine

18. bxa3 Bg4; 19. a4 Qd7; 20. Ba3 Rfe8; 21. Bxe7 Qxe7; 22. Qd3 g6; 23. Nh4 Qb4?

The start of Black’s trouble, as he introduces complications to his detriment..Safer is 23....Qg5.

24. Nxg6! ....

Now sharp complications quickly mounts.

24....  Qxd4; 25. Ne7ch Kf8; 26. Nxd5 Qxf2ch?

Not a good idea as it opens up the f file for White’s heavy pieces. Instead, 26....Qxd3 is a better alternative, e.g.,  27. Bxd3 Ba5 28. Re3 Rfd8, White enjoys a clear advantage, but the game continues.

27. Kh2 Rad8; 28. Rf1 Rxe5?!

Black initiates a faulty combination, which backfires.

29. Rxf2 Rdxd5

Black pinned his hopes on this move, which threatens both ...Rxd3 and ...Bxf2, not to mention the mating attack, ...Rh5ch. However, White’s next reply refutes the idea.

30. Rxf7ch! ....

This finally is a counter blow to which there’s no good answer..

30.... Ke8

And now Black sees the reverse twist at the end of his combination. Capturing the Rook with 31....Kxf7 is met by 32. Qh7ch Kd6 33. Qg6ch Be6 34. g4, and White is winning.

31. Qxd5 Rxd5; 32. Bg6! ,,,,

Stopping the mating threat, at the same time threatening to win material. This simple finishing touch ends the story and the rest needs no further comment.

32.... Kd8; 33. Re1 c6; 34. Rxb7 Bc7; 35. Re8ch Kd7; 36. Rh8 1-0

Solution to last week’s puzzle

White to move and win

White=Kg1, Qf6, Rc7, Nf4, Pa3, Pb4, Pf2, Pg2, Ph4 Black=Kg8, Qh6, Rf8, Ba8, Pa4, Pb5 Pf7, Pg6, Ph7

1. f3! 1-0

Black is in zugzswang. e.g., 1....Qg7 2. Qxg7ch Kxg7 3. Ne6ch and wins. or 1....Rb8 2. Qxf7ch Kh8 3. Qf6ch Kg8 4. Qe6ch Kh8 5.

Qe5ch Kg8 6. Ne6 and wins.

* * *

MAGNUS CARLSEN
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